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Refusing to go to school

(32 Posts)
noscat Wed 06-Feb-08 15:12:23

Hello everyone. I've been a bit of a voyeur on this site for a while, and found it really useful and comforting to realise that I'm not alone in finding the teenage years so much more of a challenge than I expected. I didn't know I was born with my first one, it was relatively stress & trouble free, but with no 2 I have got a whole heap of issues! I apologise for the length of this post in advance, but I'd really appreciate some advice on how to deal with my dd's refusal to go to school. She's currently in her first year of GCSEs, 14 (summer baby) Unfortunately she has made friends with some girls who have really poor attendance, which is sanctioned in part by their parents. Year 10 began badly with some bullying & other issues, but these seemed to be resolved by the school although dd was furious with me for continuing to expect her to go to school when it all went on, my view was that she was innocent and it's best to face up to these things. However, I obviously got that wrong because since then her attendance got worse and worse, and now at least one day a week she simply refuses to get out of bed. Only actually truanted twice (eg i thought she was at school and she wasn't). She says she's not being bullied, but finds the work boring and has become aggressive towards the teachers (a new thing). last year was really difficult, and i took her to the Dr to ask for some counselling, as she was drinking & tried to self-harm twice. She went, but said it was useless & refused to go to family counselling. Since then however she has stopped drinking & generally been much more responsible and a pleasure to live with. And then this! I really worry that something awful is going on, but she seems happy to talk to me about everything (I'm sure she keeps some things back) & generally if she is upset she tells me what's wrong. She is a very bright child, and doesn't have trouble keeping up with the work and seems to have plenty of friends. I didn't have any problems with my son (now 17) and feel dreadful that I was a bit dismissive of his 100% attendance record! What's so frustrating is that I feel completely useless - I've tried being sympathetic, I've tried restricting priviledges such as pocket money being dependent on her going to school, confiscating mobile phone/restricting computer time etc. to my shame I've also resorted to screaming my head off but nothing seems to help. We can have really good conversations when i feel we've cracked it & she promises to give it a go & then the next morning back to square one. Worryingly most of the stuff I've read about on this suggests that it's not going to stop and I'm in this for the duration. She's still got another year at school, so I'm also worried about the threat of prosecution. I've had one letter from the EWO saying that they were monitoring her attendance but since then nothing. I've tried to call the EWO 3 times & the school attendance secretary promises me that she's passed on the message, but she doesn't return my calls. The school is sympathetic but just tells me to get her to come in as often as I can. Anyone got a magic wand??

ajandjjmum Wed 06-Feb-08 15:19:21

You poor thing. My dd is of the same age, and has me tearing my hair out at times, but nothing so extreme.

Have you thought about removing all of her priviledges (mobile, computer, pocket money) until she attends for say two full weeks?

Is there anyone else you could get to talk to her?

noscat Wed 06-Feb-08 15:40:44

Thanks so much for your prompt reply - I tried to answer but it disappeared, sorry if i have accidentally posted it elsewhere. I did try withdrawing all priviledges, but she then refused to go in at all for the week. Not sure if I dare to say OK, if you don't go you won't get any of it back until you do. I think she could go without stuff for some time as she is a very determined individual. The school have asked me to continue to try to get her in at least one day a week so she's got me over a barrel! All the literature out there on this is aimed at parents who are a bit laid back about attendance, and think it doesn't matter that much if their kids miss school - I've never been one of them. Just want a time machine to fast forward me into the future when I'm sure she'll be a happy, well balanced individual rather than a stroppy, hormonal nightmare

juuule Wed 06-Feb-08 16:31:34

Have a talk to the school again and see what they can suggest.
Don't phone the EWO, write a letter and ask for confirmation of receipt. That way you can prove that you have been co-operating with them.
Ask your daughter what she would like to happen. Discuss with the school and see what arrangements can be made.

Blandmum Wed 06-Feb-08 16:38:23

Contact the school as soon as you can. make an appointment to see her form tutor and the head of the Pastoral unit.

Document all of this.

Ask for the school to put her on internal monitoring to see if there is a pattern in her misbehaviour.

Ask them and her, if she would benefit for having alternative education plans made for her....possible day release to an FE collage for vocational study, schools can help to arrange this

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 19:00:14

Hello again, well I have had meetings with both her head of year, and with the EWO & head of the pastoral unit. Despite the fact that this was our first contact, this was classed as a "formal interview" It was minuted, and we will receive a copy. The sticking point was the disbelief emanating from them in waves that we had lost control of our child to such a degree that neither of us could "make" her attend. The end result was that I have to get her to school, otherwise they can't help with extra support etc. They also suggested a suprise visit from a community police officer, to shock her into realising that this is serious. After elimiating all the obvious causes (bullying, difficulty with the work, physical or emotional problems)and getting very excited about the fact that she hasn't run away from home, stayed out until 3am & doesn't (now) smoke or drink they then decided that she was an attention seeker (which is true to a certain extent, she's the diva of all drama queens) but now I'm beating myself up about why she is attention seeking... Can't win. I came out feeling that if she doesn't start to go to school then it is effectively a fast track to drug abuse, prostitution & a life of crime. I found that the EWO was extremely negative when I mentioned home schooling, is this a common reaction? Oddly the head of year was more supportive, but perhaps that is because they do have one (one, in a school of 2,000) who is totally home schooled except for one practical science lesson a week. apologies for such a long post, but it's good to get things off your chest and feel that you're not alone with your problems.

AandK Mon 11-Feb-08 19:19:42

Your dd sounds so familiar. I was exactly the same when I was in my last couple of years at school (not that long ago). Firstly you've mentioned on this page how she is nothing like your ds was. Have you said this to her?? Comparing her to another child will just make her resent you.
I don't agree with a lot of what the EWO say. They don't know your dd. I personaly found them just scare mongerers who threaten everything rather than actually trying to find a reason why this is happening.
I would discuss home schooling with your daughter, if the school encourages it.
It could help get her away from the bad influence girls.
I would make it clear to her though that if this fails she would have to go back to school.
Also I have heard of girls that are suffering from bullying (just in case it is happening) from finishing their school years at college. (don't quote me on this)smile

avenanap Mon 11-Feb-08 19:41:39

Hi Noscat. Poor you! There are so many parents out there who couldn't care less wether their children are in school or not so I take my hat off to you. I've never been in this situation so I can't talk from experience. I have, however, spent time working with teenagers and the childrens mental health team. It's very difficult to be a teenager. You've got all these hormones going through your body, then you've got pressure to look good, be fun and have friends. You don't want to be the odd one out, then you find yourself in situations that have got out of hand and you can no longer control, as much as you try. Your daughter sounds like she's spinning out of control and she needs as much support and love as a baby. There is a root to her problem somewhere. Sometimes they can be very well hidden or you might not be able to see the wood for the trees. If she's bright then I would consider this very carefully. It can be a great burden on a child when they are bright. They try so hard to fit in and this is when they go off the rails. You can't put a bright child in with ones that don't care, they start to withdraw. You should seriously consider if her school is the best place for her. Perhapse she needs a change of scenery or a school that has more pastoral care. Be there when she needs you. Tell her you care. Listen but remember she'll rebel if she feels like people are trying to control her. Good luck.

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 19:59:02

What if she's just had enough of school? Genuine question.
As MartianBishop said earlier, ask about alternative education plans the school might have. Does the school have any arrangements with the colleges for 14-16yo to continue with education at the college. Maybe she's ready for a change and perhaps the different environment of a college might make the difference.
Have you asked her what she wants?

AandK Mon 11-Feb-08 20:08:28

Well done juuule I knew I hadn't just dreamt that up!!
I've actually spoken to my aunt since as I remembered that my cousin had finished schooling at college and it made a world of difference for both of them. smile

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 20:22:33

Hi AandK. thanks so much for your reply. I do agree with you re. the comparing one child with another as I had that myself as a child & with my mum re. my sister's children (hers perfect, mine sooooo not). comparing notes one day I found mum was doing the same to her & saying how marvellous mine were! I only mentioned ds in the sense that he didn't have any problems with school, to show that at least I got one of them through successfully, and every single one of the professionals i have been talking to seem inordinately interested in sibling behaviour. I try not to compare them in terms of ability or achievements etc, they are both lovely in their different ways. I've asked her about bullying - the original incident was sparked off by being accused of bullying herself (the other girl made it up) but that all seems to have gone away. She happily attended a school trip to Yorkshire for two days and had a whale of a time, and my feeling is that she wouldn't have wanted to go if she felt intimidated. I'm interested in whether you returned to school & if so what motivated you to do so - was it the threat of further action, or do you feel this was unnecessary scaremongering? Lovely to speak to someone that went through this and came out the other end and to me you sound like a well rounded and thoughtful individual - thanks again you for your message.

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 20:34:57

Sorry AandK, I didn't realise that you had already mentioned the college track. I wasn't ignoring your post.

AandK Mon 11-Feb-08 20:38:29

ha ha your daughter makes me laugh I too went for a week so I could go on a horse riding trip and a trip to Alton Towers (prob not funny in your eyes.)I did go back to school but only to do my exams and to be honest I didn't do that great in them. I actually had to re do my GCSE's l8r in life to get where I am now (doing a teaching degree). My cousin however did much better in her exams as she was able to them at college. I would ask your daughter if she would like to consider this idea. I'd also let her know that missing out will affect her future and as though she probably doesn't want to think about it at 14 (I know I didn't) she'll regret it.smile

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 20:38:51

Hello Avenap (great name by the way). I agree with you in that she needs as much loving now as when she was a toddler - her teenage years have taken me straight back to the years when she lay on the supermarket floor bellowing "I want an ambiance NOW" (for some reason she thought ambulances cured all ills) because I wouldn't let her have some sweets. OH and I decided that when she was really pushing the boundaries (alcohol-related mainly) we would try hard to be non judgemental and provide unquestioning support when she needed it, eg whatever she had done it could never be so bad that we wouldn't still love her. She always came home when she got drunk, because she wanted the security and was well aware that she she was in a potentially dangerous situation. When she stopped drinking (pretty much overnight) she then went through a stage when she brought back every single squiffy teenager she knew ("come back to my mum's, she'll look after you") so I have spent more hours than I care to mopping brows and sitting up all night with buckets. Luckily apart from the hard core most of them seem to have decided that it is really not a good idea and makes you look an idiot in front of the people you most want to impress. Unfortunately I've found that the techniques we used just don't work with the school refusal, probably because she can't see what's in it for her. Because i've lowered my guard and tried to be softer and more approachable, I now run the risk of being walked over. From being thrilled about the fact that she might have issues but doesn't smoke, drink or take drugs, I'm now back to feeling that I'm not very good at this at all

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 20:44:28

AandK - teacher! Wow, good for you, and because of your own experiences you'll be ideal at dealing with any future school refusers you might come across! No, I'm glad you did the same thing regarding the trip, I just think it makes her normal (rather than the Exorcist type child that I sometimes feel I have) because she getting something that she wants out of school at least & had a good time.

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 20:49:48

Hi to Juule and MartinBishop
Yes, I did ask about home schooling and oddly enough her head of year was actually far more open to the idea than the EWO who actually rejected it as a solution. Head of year agreed to supply me with lesson plans, details of books used (in short supply so are kept in school), useful websites etc. However, when I went into the next meeting (which by the way lasted for 2 hours!!!) I was made to feel as if I wasn't being supportive when I said that if dd was still refusing to attend and it got so bad that prosecution was an option then I would home educate. I just got the feeling that she really had a downer on it. DD is receptive to home ed, but still wants to do all her GCSEs (10) and I honestly don't think I could do that. also I work part time, so she would be home alone until 3.30 every day, and round here an empty house just says PARTY (Shameless style)

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 20:53:05

sorry, how many times did I say "actually". Makes me sound like something out of Enid Blyton! And i use too many exclamation marks blush

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 21:01:07

Oooh just typed a reply and lost it.angry

I didn't mean home-ed, although that would be an option if your dd was willing to do that. However, that would mean deregistering your dd which would mean she was no longer on the school roll. This would mean in all probability that you would have to arrange and pay for any exams she might wish to take.

I was thinking more about the situation where your dd was still enrolled at the school but where she would have day release and go to college for some of her courses.

Or another option, which is maybe what the school meant, would be to flexi-school. Where your dd would still be on the school roll but would only attend the school for certain subjects or on certain days to be arranged between yourself and the school.

If your dd remained on the school roll then the school could still enter her for any exams.

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 21:02:29

I would also point out to her that if she really wants to pass 10 gcses she is going to need to put the work in.

AandK Mon 11-Feb-08 21:06:06

The thing is eventually she will see what she wants to do and will go and do it. You just have to support her in it, but she also has to see that she can't let you get into trouble with the authorities over it. The best thing to do is to agree on a compromise on both parts. It's not a total bad thing if she doesn't do that great in her exams it'll be just a really slow process when she has to start over again. I wish you and her a lot of luck and please keep us posted on what you have managed to work out xx smile

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 21:09:47

I think AandK is talking a lot of sense.

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 21:11:33

Thanks Juuule. I agree about the work, which is why I am doubtful. She is v clever, managed to get a C in her first (& only science module) without attending many classes or having the revision book. Worries me that one unpleasant aspect of my dd's behaviour is that she can be quite arrogant about her own abilities, doesn't seem to realise that hard work = results, preferring the option of no work = enough to get by. She also runs rings around me whenever we have an argument, sadly I feel intellectually challenged by my own offspring. However, I have some hopes in that on the first day she genuinely truanted & stormed out the door she was wearing school uniform - I rang her & made her aware that she was breaking the law & could be picked up by a truancy patrol so she took herself & the other delinquents she was hanging out with to the science museum so they could say they were on a school trip if anyone asked! First time that 3 of them had been, and she took great delight in taking them all round. I just wish she could harness that initiative in the right way!

AandK Mon 11-Feb-08 21:17:14

She sounds so intelligent that the reason she probably doesn't want to go is because she is bored!! She's not being challenged enough!! The work isn't too hard for her, its not hard enough. Look into this... It might be an idea to get her progressing quick then she can actually (legally) finish earier!!! Probably sound like a good idea in her eyes.grin

noscat Mon 11-Feb-08 21:19:19

You're right AandK - in fact all of you are. I feel much better just talking here - what I'm struggling with at the moment is trying to feel positive about life because something like this really puts you in the spotlight and you start (over) analysing absolutely everything. You (well I do) go right back to their babyhood & start thinking does she hate school because I breastfeed too long, too little, etc etc? I'm struggling at work, struggling in my relationship with OH & DS, despite the fact that they have tried to be supportive, but unfortunately I am a worrier by nature and am trying to find a reason, or a solution, and this has had a knock on effect on everything! (exclamation marks creeping in again - must suppress urge). Nobody has died, it's not the end of the world, she's 14 and has her whole life ahead of her and a blip now doesn't necessarily mean the end of everything. Is that the right attitude to take (until it gets to 3am and I am awake and panicking - I must allow myself one !)

juuule Mon 11-Feb-08 21:21:46

Sounds like you've got a very bright one, there, noscat.
I agree (again ) with AandK.

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